Microsoft is all over the news this week, but unfortunately for the company, it’s for the wrong reasons. Early this week it was revealed that a security flaw in Internet Explorer caused opened the way for cyber attacks on Google users and some corporate networks. Now officials in France and Germany are advising its citizens it is best to avoid using IE until at least until Microsoft patches the IE vulnerability.
The company is also facing growing discontent over its handling of Windows Mobile and the possibility of it offering two versions of the smartphone software, rather than one. Even Microsoft’s online division, led by Bing, is under fire over privacy concerns. Needless to say, it’s a difficult time for Microsoft.
As difficult as it might be now, it won’t end until Redmond gets its act together and starts working towards addressing the many troubles that are plaguing it. This isn’t the late 1990s or the beginning of the past decade when Microsoft was unchallenged as the dominant force in the industry.
Today, its power is being challenged by other huge companies, including Google and Apple. Worst of all, those companies are doing a fine job of providing a compelling alternative most products that Microsoft offers.
Time is running out for Microsoft. The longer it waits to address its many issues, the worse its chance will be of overcoming them. But the first step is identifying those troubles. So let’s take a look at the problems Microsoft needs to address in its operation.
1. Internet Explorer
Although it’s still widely used, Internet Explorer enjoys far less clout in the browser space than it once did. That’s mainly due to Microsoft’s mistakes with the platform. Internet Explorer lacks many of the compelling extensions found in Firefox. It doesn’t boast the lightweight speed of Google Chrome. And judging by the revelation that Internet Explorer caused the recent security issues plaguing Google users, it would seem that Microsoft’s browser can’t even keep users as adequately protected as it should. If Microsoft wants to offer a successful browser, it must get to work on Internet Explorer.
2. Windows Mobile
The current state of Windows Mobile is cause for alarm in Redmond. Although the company plans to release Windows Mobile 6.5.3 soon, which should boast some updates over the previous version of the software, it’s Windows Mobile 7 that will be Microsoft’s first foray into the touch-enabled smartphone space. The only problem is, Microsoft hasn’t given any indication of when it will release the software. Moreover, recent reports are suggesting there will be multiple versions of the mobile OS-another mistake. Microsoft needs to work hard on delivering the best mobile platform it can and get it out to consumers as quickly as possible. There is no more time to waste.
According to Nielsen, the software giant’s search engine, Bing, lost market share to Google in December, capturing less than 10 percent share. And now that Microsoft’s data retention policies have caught the attention of privacy watchdogs at the European Union, it seems that Microsoft is spending more time trying to determine how to make regulators happy than figuring out how to compete. Bing is a key component in Microsoft’s Web strategy. The company can’t allow more missteps to stunt its growth.
Microsoft Needs to Mend Fences with Enterprise Customers
4. The Web-based OS
Although Microsoft has Azure, which could become an important product in the company’s online endeavors, Google has set the pace for the Web-based OS. By announcing Chrome OS and capturing much of the attention, Google has put Microsoft back on its heels, potentially making it difficult for Redmond to catch up. Microsoft needs to quickly get an OS to the Web.
Over the past few months, Microsoft has faced mounting pressure from regulators on several of its services. The company was forced to give users the option of choosing a browser to use in Windows 7. Now it has agreed to save search data for just six months. Microsoft has a target on its back. It needs to make a more concerted effort to get it off.
6. A suspect enterprise
The corporate world is unsure just how well it can trust Microsoft’s Windows 7. Windows Vista was a nightmare that most companies didn’t adopt. Internet Explorer is in the news, thanks to a security breach. And Windows Mobile is still the also-ran in the market. The longer Microsoft allows the corporate world to remain suspect, the worse it will get. Microsoft needs to actively improve enterprise relationships sooner rather than later.
7. Vista’s legacy
Unfortunately for Microsoft, Windows Vista is still fresh in the minds of both corporate users and consumers. The operating system was rife with incompatibility problems, security issues, and thanks to its hunger for resources, required most users to pick up a new computer just to run it. Vista has cast a long shadow over Redmond that it has yet to emerge from. It must.
Microsoft’s security woes are troublesome. Not only is Windows not nearly as secure as users would like, but Internet Explorer is causing trouble for users as well. Security is a thorn in Microsoft’s side that won’t go away until the company makes a concerted effort to fully address the security problems that are affecting its platforms. Admittedly, Microsoft has done a better job of that recently by deploying Security Essentials and having a more open line of communication, but it needs to do more before the mainstream loses faith in its software.
A quick glance around many of the markets where Microsoft operates reveals a staggering issue: the competition is innovating far more rapidly than Microsoft. The iPhone makes Windows Mobile obsolete. Mac OS X provides a clean, secure experience that Windows can’t easily match. Even Google and its Chrome OS beat Microsoft. That needs to change. If Microsoft wants to turn things around, it needs to be more innovative. It needs to take chances. Most of all, it needs to spend that bundle of cash sitting in its coffers on something unique.
10. A look to the future
Following that, it’s important to note that so far, Microsoft’s strategies have focused mainly on the short term. The future of software is, at least by most accounts, centered on the Web. And yet, as the most important software company in the industry, Microsoft is lagging behind the Web software innovators. That’s a major blunder. As the leader in the market, Microsoft needs to lead to maintain its position. It’s not. And it could cost the company dearly.